A lot has happened in two years for the True North Sports Camps, formerly North Toronto Baseball Camps.
The last time this newspaper caught up with the quartet of college friends, Gabe Diamond, Jeremy and Simon Weisz, as well as Lee Berger, were just starting up their First Down Flag Football Camp.
Now the entrepreneurial push that started in 2007 with a baseball focus is expanding into other sports and other boroughs and cities, like Etobicoke and Hamilton.
And they’ve added a new office, a new name and two full-time employees.
Seated at her desk inside the office on Eglinton Avenue West is Courtney Berger, wife of Lee, and a recent full-time employee as of October. She’s executive director for True North Sports Camps – the offshoot since the four founders have gone into other sports – and she relays the growth the sports development camp has experienced. She’s excited.
Courtney’s been on the outside looking in since the four started the North Toronto Baseball Camp while attending Western University in 2007.
“I was around when they started up the first year. I’ve seen it grow from this really small community camp,” she admits. “It still has that feel.”
Lee, seated close by, chimes in, and expands on the need for the community feel, and the company’s need to adopt a hub-and-spoke model.
“We are looking to grow, but it will be slow and steady,” he says. “We believe in quality of the program, and not for the sake of growing.”
Sure enough, this year the camp has introduced both basketball and soccer to their docket, and their ringer is multisport, which allows for the staff to be creative and play on their strengths.
“The multisport program is unique that it allows us to leverage the strengths of our staff that we have working any particular week,” Lee says.
Though it may be daunting to take their midtown business model and transplant it in the Hammer, the reception has been positive.
“They never heard of us before, and they don’t have anything similar,” Courtney says.
But they will, and it’s in the heart of Hamilton’s recreational area, Alexander Park.
At present, the camps have over 200 kids participating. That’s not bad considering the baseball camp, in its first year, only had eight kids.
“You can’t run a camp with seven or eight,” Lee admits. “As it turned out, a couple of kids showed up on the first day.
“Every week throughout the rest of the summer, we added a couple to our utilization,” he adds. “It was an amazing start.”
And with Steeltown in focus, the true test of mettle comes.